This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
“I kept wondering exactly why you chose the busiest night of the week for this,” Jenkara said, his smile half illuminated by silvery moonlight. “And then I realized: you want me all to yourself.”
Balini leaned back against the wall of the tavern, her wings trembling. She smiled and let her eyes trace the lines of Jenkara’s face. “You have no idea.”
“And no one will miss us.”
“I know.” Balini hummed softly as Jenkara leaned into her, one arm braced against the wall by her head. She licked her lips and fluttered her eyelashes, waiting for him to move closer. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Jenkara’s eyebrows raised slightly. “What took you so long?”
With their lips separated by a hairsbreadth, Balini smiled sweetly. “Do you want to know why I haven’t killed you yet?” she whispered.
Balini’s fingers curled around Jenkara’s throat and she spun, throwing him against the wall. “Because I had to be sure I wasn’t taking an innocent life,” she snarled. A harsh wind whipped through the empty clearing and the gentleness of Balini’s smile turned furious. “I know what you did. I know about every child you murdered and you’re never going to hurt another.”
Bright, golden light burned deep in Balini’s eyes. “Do you remember Vikranti?” she said as glowing tendrils began to trail down her arms. “They only found the burnt scraps of her sari, the one her mother made for her.” A loud snap sounded and Balini smiled when Jenkara let out a strangled scream. “Maybe you remember Debali? They actually found her body.”
There was another loud snap and Jenkara’s broken legs gave out. A golden sleeve of light had encapsulated Balini’s arm as she held him several inches off the ground, her magic seeping into his skin. His eyes widened as he desperately tried to gasp for air, each of his limbs flailing wildly.
“No one will hear you, Jenkara. No one will care that you’re dead because we all know that this is what you deserve.” His left arm snapped in half and despite his writhing and crying, no sound escaped his lips. “You broke Meera’s arm like that, you know. I’m sure you remember. And your right arm?” Balini smiled when it broke at the elbow. “That’s how you left Chandrika. Well, except for the bashed in skull.”
Watching her victim thrash soundlessly, Balini could feel power surging through her veins. She felt magic humming in her fingertips and the cool sea air blowing against her back served to invigorate her.
“I hope your gods let your soul rot for eternity.”
Her fingers curling even tighter around Jenkara’s neck, Balini grimaced and focused her magic on his spine. The sound of cracking bones echoed around them and Jenkara was limp in her hand. His body tumbled carelessly to the floor and Balini stumbled backward, swaying slightly as the golden light that had enveloped her body suddenly disappeared.
Wiping the sweat away from her brow, she cast a furtive glance about her. Her shoulders slumped in relief upon realizing she was alone and she leaned forward so her forehead rested against the tavern wall. Once she had readjusted her sari and long plait, Balini hurried back inside, failing to notice the woman watching her from the shadows of the clearing’s edge.
The pair wandered over to a table situated in an isolated corner of the tavern. Mara leaned over to whisper in her companion’s ear as Balini started towards them, her heart pounding heavily in her chest. As she reached the table, Mara turned and flashed Balini a charming smile.
“Arrack again for you, Mara?” Balini asked, her gaze falling to the table the moment their eyes met.
Leaning back in her chair, Mara hummed. “For both of us, please,” she said. Then, with a grin, Mara gasped. “Do you have any mutton rolls?”
Balini smiled and nodded, finally able to meet the fairy’s eyes. “Yes, I’ll bring some out for you. One moment.”
Returning to the table several minutes later, Balini set out a small plate of mutton rolls as well as two brimming cups. Balini rested her hands on her hips. “Is there anything else I can get for you two?” she asked.
“Not at the moment, thank you.”
Leaning casually against the counter on the opposite end of the tavern, Balini spared several discreet glances in Mara’s direction. She watched curiously when she noticed only Mara speaking and the stranger merely responding with a nod of her head. Attempting to wait patiently until Mara needed her assistance, Balini busied herself with taking care of the other customers scattered across the room.
“How is everything?” Balini asked when she was waved over.
Mara smiled and leaned forward slightly so her weight rested upon one of her elbows. She brushed away a few loose strands of hair from her eyes and looked up at Balini, wings fluttering softly. “I’d like to talk with you,” she said seriously.
Balini furrowed her brows, confused, as she spared the stranger a glance, searching for some context to Mara’s comment. “Is something wrong?”
“No, but there’s something I need to discuss with you.”
Balini frowned. “What’s so important that you’ve suddenly turned so serious?” she wondered.
Reaching out and brushing her calloused fingers along the back of Balini’s hand, Mara sighed. “The matter I wish to discuss with you is very delicate. I’d rather not let strangers hear it.”
The sudden change in mood startled Balini and she felt her heart skip a beat. Was Mara flirting or was this merely wishful thinking? She couldn’t tell. Quickly drawing her hand back, Balini gestured towards the counter. “Follow me.”
Across the room from the tavern entrance was an open doorway with a simple, worn curtain serving as a door. Balini pushed the curtain aside as she passed through the doorway and into a small room furnished only with a few sleeping mats. Several different sized knapsacks were scattered across the floor, each positioned next to a specific mat.
Standing to one side of the room so as not to disturb anything, Balini turned to face Mara. The strange and very silent companion entered behind her; Balini looked expectantly between the pair and waited for one of them to speak up.
“I have a proposition for you,” Mara said, finally. Balini raised her eyebrows, unsure of the direction the conversation seemed to be going, but said nothing. “We were forced to relieve one of our crew members recently after she was blinded in battle. The captain is looking for someone to replace her and I think you’d be perfect for the job.”
Balini was silent for a moment, suddenly understanding her mistake. She lifted her eyes from the line of Mara’s shoulders to a freckle on her cheek. “Aren’t you a pirate?” she asked.
“So you want me to be a pirate?”
A smile tugged at Mara’s lips and she crossed her arms. “I think someone like you would be invaluable in our crew. And I know it would give you more freedom than this place ever could.”
“Freedom?” Balini echoed. A fleeting thought wondered just what Mara would know of freedom, of the desire and need for liberation. She knew that to ask would be too suspicious and suspicion always led to grief.
Readjusting her braid over her opposite shoulder, Balini attempted a polite smile. Already she was growing uncomfortable and paranoid. “I appreciate you wanting to recruit me, Mara, but I’m no pirate. I’m not even a sailor.”
“But you can fight,” Mara countered.
Balini shook her head. “I really can’t.” Stepping past the couple, she started for the doorway. “It was good to see you again, Mara, but I have work to do. If you’ll excuse me-”
“I’ve seen you fight,” Mara said quickly. “I know what you’re capable of.”
Balini froze mid step. Slowly, she looked back at Mara, her fear giving her courage enough to meet the fairy’s shining eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.
Mara exhaled softly. “I saw you last night, outside the tavern. I knew then that it would be a mistake not to ask you to join us.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Balini saw Mara rest a hand on the hilt of her dagger. Her heartbeat quickened. Mara and her silent companion were staring at her, waiting for something. Fear and paranoia overrode logic, and Balini suddenly felt cornered and threatened. They knew her secret and she was in more danger with each passing second.
Extending both of her arms in a single, fluid motion, Balini threw the pair against the opposite wall. She reached for the knapsack beside her mat but was suddenly shoved into the wall just beside the doorway. The stranger was crouching defensively in front of Mara, who was leaning against the opposite wall.
Bracing herself against the doorway, Balini pushed herself to her feet. “You’re a mage,” she said breathlessly, watching in awe as golden light faded from the stranger’s eyes.
The stranger helped Mara stand. “We’re not here to threaten you, Balini,” Mara assured her. “But you have to trust us.”
“You were spying on me.”
Mara shook her head. “When the captain said we needed a new crew member, I immediately thought of you. I wanted to speak to you last night, but- well, you were otherwise engaged.”
Balini considered the other fairy’s explanation. She looked momentarily at the stranger and her wings bristled. “Kai is just trying to protect me,” Mara said as she rested a hand on their shoulder. “Nobody is threatening you, not Kai, and not me.”
Balini looked skeptically between the two. She wanted to believe Mara was telling the truth, but experience had taught her otherwise. Her instincts were screaming for her to leave everything behind and run.
“Why should I trust you?” Balini asked.
“I have no reason to lie to you.”
“You’re strong, clever, and clearly a powerful mage,” Mara answered. “And I like you.” Balini began to protest, but Mara cut her off before she could say more than a few words. “Speak to Captain Nirvatha.” The name struck Balini like a blow to the head. She froze and stared in shock at Mara as the other fairy continued. “If you still aren’t interested, then nobody will stop you from leaving, but at least consider the offer.”
Breathlessly, Balini asked, “Did you say Nirvatha?” Hardly waiting a single heartbeat, Balini snatched her knapsack and slung it over one shoulder. “Take me to her. Now, please.”
“Are you certain? A moment ago you looked ready to bolt-”
“Now,” Balini said again, already pushing the threadbare curtain aside.
A co-worker behind the counter caught Balini’s eye. “Bal, what are you doing?” he called, already hurrying across the room to intercept her.
Grasping her friend by the bicep, Balini said, “I don’t know if I’m coming back, Manzur, but if I don’t, then this is goodbye.” She smiled and pulled him into a firm, brief hug. “And make sure to tell Shantha, on my behalf, to go fuck herself.”
“Shantha?” Mara echoed, trailing after Balini as she strode towards the exit. “One of your exes?”
mullikin902: Do not start reading this book unless you have enough time to finish it in one sitting, because you will not be able to put it down! Superlative! Addictive! Deliciously wicked characters you can't get enough of. Impatiently waiting for the sequel!
catd69: Karim is a very talented writer. When I started reading his journey it took me into the book and I was in the story till the end. I've never felt this way with any other writers stories. If you want to read a gripping adventure, this will be the one book I would suggest you pick.
Marijana1: The melancholy present throughout this story has the power to influence and etch into the minds of the readers, to stay there and refuse to leave even after they have finished reading the story. This is a deep, powerful story, making the readers wonder about everything – about love, about their e...
Erin Crowley: The concept here is really strong, but the execution is definitely lacking. Tenses, grammar, etc are all off, with at least one or more errors per 'Page' on my phone. The writing style is almost broken- sentences move into each other awkwardly, and are filled with an excess of "filler words", lik...
Satabda Chatterjee: Each and every charecter develops during the whole course of the journey and keeps secretly love for the princess . However the way that writter expressed each situatuons that the princess faced quite relevant and keeps the suspense always at the end of the chapter. . . .which makes the reader m...
spec4huff: Thank you for creating this world. I am a 6'3" veteran that thinks himself tough. But the piece of literature you have created made me misty eyed on a number of occasions. I want a love like this. Thank you again, I would totally buy this book and hopefully the sequels to this ever enchanting lov...
Stephen Warner: To start off, I am thoroughly impressed. The writing style is somewhat unique, and the plot seemed to move at a nice and steady pace. However, I was not expecting this to be a vampire book! I am usually not one for novels about vampires, but I was pleasantly surprised! You wrote with such grace a...
maewilde25: I am so in love with this story!!! captivated me till the very end, there wasn't a dull moment. Didn't particularly enjoy the lay out and some bits of info was missing along with how a 21 year old man amassed so much wealth that needed to be explained other than that and a few spelling errors, th...
ElusiveBadwolf: I loved this book so much! It's a shame that i already came to the end of this. I really enjoyed the story, and i liked it how everything became in the end. It was a great book and i can say that you are a great writer too. Keep it that way and i think you can make it in the writing business!
spooky jedi: Love your story!I really hope more people read this story!Its amazing!! The plot is very unique and different, which is very good to have in a world full of stories. You have very complex and intellectual plot line, with your many loveable character and that hint of 'will they, won't they' is ju...